As you look at 2018 and your business initiatives, possibly assisting pet parents with the loss of their furry family member is in your strategy thoughts. Even if you are one of the few who feels the grief associated with the death of a pet is crazy, ridiculous, or you just plain don’t get it, the facts are the facts. More and more people are opting for family members they can choose, such as a puppy or a kitty. For every pet lover out there, the grief associated with the death of a pet is very real and one where grieving pet parents are just looking for others to understand and give them permission to honor the life they shared with a beloved pet.

As I made my resolutions for the New Year, I declared this to be the “Year of You.” The year where I want to give people full permission to do what they need to do to honor the life they shared with their special pet. The year I want to be here, to walk with those that are grieving the death of a furry friend and needing a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or a hand to hold. So many pet lovers feel alone when a precious pet dies, even though the relationship shared with the pet might be the only uncomplicated thing in their life. The love is real, the grief is so real.

So with that, I’m turning to you to join my mission. If you, too, are looking at this year as the time to begin to support those that are experiencing the loss of a new kind of family member, the pet, then I want to help you as well. Possibly you’re already serving pet parents, then these ideas might help you round out your 2018 business planning process. Or possibly you’re just looking for ways to let pet parents know you support them in their loss, but you are not actively serving pet parents in their final arrangements. Whichever it is, here’s another marketing message for your families or another offering to illustrate your organization’s level of care. Consider these simple yet effective ways to add to your enterprise’s business this year:

• Create a community of pet lovers to support each other with a new social message for your business’ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest page.

• Blog or find a guest blogger for your website or social pages to appeal to pet lovers.

• Create an e-newsletter geared towards pet families.

• When you are asking about the survivors in the house, are you including the pet family members? This starts to plant the seed you are looking at pets in this manner and care about them too.

• When your preneed team is presenting to a family, deliver a Guide To Planning Ahead for the pet, too.

• Consider a joint presentation with a local attorney who can also address the topic of pet advanced planning or a pet trust, to include all of the important aspects of planning ahead for a pet’s death or in the situation the owner’s predeceases the pet.

• In your post-service care program, deliver information on how pets grieve as well.

• The second Sunday in September is National Pet Memorial Day. Hold a special ceremony for pet families. Or simply add an element into May’s Memorial Day activities that is pet specific to give family members the opportunity to pay tribute to this love as well.

• October is the feast month of St. Frances, the patron saint of pets. Invite your funeral home’s pastors and priests to assist in a blessing of the pets right in your parking lot to market to your community.

• Possibly once a year your funeral home conducts a community-wide pet memorial service for pet loving families to come together. Maybe this is randomly held during the year, or possibly this is a special service held during your other holiday remembrance services.

• If you are actively working with your local home care nursing agencies, hospice organizations, or assisted living centers, guide their associates on how to assist their residents when a pet dies.

• Consider a grief therapy dog for your funeral home. The stories are abundant as to why, and the positive results with this kind of a program are astounding!

• Think of all of the community outreach you can do with this kind of a program, from visiting schools, community fairs, hospitals, and so much more!

Lastly, I wanted to share this message with you. I recently wrote an article for a pet-centric magazine in Florida, the New Barker. After reviewing the piece, I wanted to share it in part with you as well. However, let’s make this bigger than you just reading the piece here. If none of the above ideas appeal to you, yet you do want to do some small gesture for your pet loving families, share this. Share it on your website, your social sites, or possibly make this a mailer to share with pet lovers. Here it is:

My Wish For You
Throughout the year, it seems we experience a variety of emotions based on past life events and experiences. From smells to seasons, the entire year is full of reminders of good memories, or harsh reminders of lost loves and broken-hearted moments.

The smell of fresh blooming tulips to transport one back to fond memories of Easter, a whiff of perfume for a beautiful reminder of someone special, the smell of fresh cut grass to say summer has arrived, or the smell of wheat to take an old farm girl right back to the fields.

Or possibly it’s that first snowfall of the season, the time when that silly Golden Retriever ran outside, laid on his back and wiggled in delight, and created the most beautiful doggie snow angels. Or the first time the Christmas boxes came out of the attic, only to find oneself in a heap of tears as the grumpy, old, smelly cat’s ornaments were tenderly tucked away from a year ago, a time when the old normal was normal, and life’s book had not yet closed a chapter named Tiger.

And then, there are just those “reminders.” The day one starts a “normal” day, but for unknown reasons, a heart that feels heavier than normal. Glancing at the calendar, the tears start as you are immediately taken back, one year ago or possibly many years ago, when you said good-bye to your special love. You remember the smells, the air, the sounds… like it was all happening again.

The love for an animal can sometimes be as mysterious as the complexity of the grief we feel. Sometimes one doesn’t fully understand how much they loved that silly old dog or crazy old cat until the time comes when they are gone. All you know is you loved them, and you miss them.

Here’s my wish for you during the holidays and for the entire year. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat any good friend, with kindness, love, care, and compassion. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to fully love, and to fully grieve, for those amazing animals who have touched your human spirit.

Be kind to yourself and also allow yourself the time and space to honor those special loves who are now locked forever into your heart. When you find yourself throwing your nose to the sky because a smell sparks a memory, or you find a bit of hair that’s still hanging around all these weeks or months later, smile. Honor the memory. Give yourself permission to shed a tear, to remember. Stop for a minute, and be present to the beauty of that memory. Give yourself permission to remember, to feel, and give yourself permission to just “be” for a minute versus hurrying off to “do” your day.

At the heart of all of this is the permission to be reminded that it was all real. The life, the love, and the chapter you shared. It was all real.

Even in its amazing, glorious, mysterious way.

There you have it. At minimum, a beautiful message to share with pet lovers to show your compassion and care during this type of family-member loss.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you. For letting me help you, help them. FBA

In 2004, the death of her dog, Mico, guided Coleen Ellis to start Pet Angel Memorial Center, Inc.®, the nation’s first stand-alone pet funeral home. In 2009, due to demand, Coleen founded Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, to guide people who wish to provide meaningful pet death care services in their communities, as well to be an educational resource in the pet grief discipline. She has a certificate in Death and Grief Studies Specializing in Pet Loss Companioning as well as being Certified in Thanatology and a Certified Pet Loss Professional. In the fall of 2011, Coleen released her first book Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief. By 2014, she had joined business partner, Nick Padlo, in creating a national brand of pet memorial centers, The Pet Loss Center. She is currently the co-chair of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance and past president of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.